18 Tips for Cutting Costs Without Laying Off Staff
By James Sturdivant, contributing editor of Publishing Executive

With the economy officially in recession and sharp ad-revenue declines affecting magazines of all sizes and scopes, few magazine publishers have failed to address cost-cutting strategies and ways to do more with less. Here are 18 tips from a cross-section of the publishing world for reining in costs without sacrificing too much in the way of staff or quality.

Tips From Elinor Fish, managing editor, Big Stone Publishing.

1. Make use of skilled interns.
“One cost-cutting measure we’ve taken is making good use of all the eager interns knocking at our door,” Fish says. “Unlike some big magazines that only use interns to make coffee and copy edit, we select interns with enough proven writing experience that they are able to (with close oversight) write articles for the magazine.”

The magazines realize big savings in their freelance budget, and the interns gain valuable experience. Don’t miss the chance to pick and choose specific skills when you have a large pool of applicants, she adds; the company has, for instance, had success with photography interns.

2. Work with book publishers to obtain free content.
Big Stone has had success sourcing free editorial content in the form of book excerpts. “Especially when a book is new to market, a publisher will often not charge us for the reprint because of the great publicity it provides for the book,” Fish says.

Tips From Frank Anton, CEO, Hanley Wood.
Hanley Wood is a business-to-business media company with more than 30 titles serving primarily the building and construction trades. “The big costs in publishing are people, printing, paper and postage,” Anton says. “That’s where you have to look for big savings, and, alas, people are the biggest expense by far.” Anton recommends addressing staffing as a primary way to realize savings, but offers other cost-saving measures as well.

3. Cut back on travel and marketing.

4. Close office locations to cut real estate expense.

5. Renegotiate vendor contracts.

Tips From Andrew Berman, executive vice president, The Mortgage Press.

6. Use tools to streamline ad tracking.
The Mortgage Press went from a “Rube Goldberg” spreadsheet-management process to a more efficient ad-tracking and workflow-management system (using Magazine Manager). “We went from entering an ad seven times to only once,” Berman says. The new system has also eliminated the problem of late ads, with attendant time and labor wasted.

7. Automate where practical.
Automatic e-mail reminders and features that allow clients to upload ads on a regular basis avoid building time-wasting procedures into the ad-procurement process.
Tips From Todd Matherne, CEO, Renaissance Publishing.

8. Cut paper weights.
Renaissance recently changed from 45# to 40# (interior pages) on all titles, Matherne reports. “The cost of the paper is less and the tonnage is less, both in cost of paper and cost of mailing,” he notes.

9. Cut trim sizes.
“We have also [converted] our glossy tabloid magazine, St. Charles Avenue, from full-size to magazine-size as of the January 2009 issue,” Matherne says.

10. Do less promotional mailing.
The company has cut significantly the number of full-issue promotional copies it mails and is experimenting with cheaper ways to attract customers. “We are doing a lot more [promotion] on the Web,” he says, including a planned revamp of all magazine Web sites to make them better promotional tools.

Tips From Dan Pritchett, vice president, marketing and business development, Logos Research Systems Inc.

11. Shift marketing dollars online.
LRS realized there were budget-conscious alternatives to inserting promotional business reply cards in magazines. It shifted some of the money saved by not having to print, insert and pay postage on the cards—which Pritchett estimates at several thousand dollars per issue—to online marketing, including buying ad space in the e-newsletters of related organizations and creating a Facebook page. The results have been dramatic, Pritchett says, with excellent return on less investment.

12. Better target your print marketing.
For the Bible Study Magazine launch, LRS worked with an Internet store that sells products to Bible Study’s target audience to insert ads into packages shipped to customers. The campaign is far more targeted than a typical business reply card effort and less costly than sending complimentary copies, Pritchett notes.

Tips From Adrian Stanley, CEO, The Charlesworth Group.

13. Understand your market,
and build pricing and business models around it. Allocate resources where your readers are today, not where they were one, three or five years ago. This includes moving judiciously into electronic and social media, but not sacrificing print where reader demand and marketing models based in the medium still create the most return on investment (ROI).

14. Use standard templates for pagination.
Journal publishers like the Nature Publishing Group and British Medical Association have led the way on this, Stanley says. Templates and sub-templates can provide up to 50 article types, especially when integrated with XML-based workflows, saving you time and money by automating production.

15. Integrate workflows and technology with other vendor technology.
Charlesworth has automated the client interface between peer-review systems and online publishing hosting platforms. Such solutions make client interaction simple and efficient, Stanley says. “If you can save someone time, you can probably save costs in the long run,” he says.

16. Know which part of the workflow a technology partner is good at,
and avoid duplication of vendor services. Understand your partner’s strengths and be sure you can trust them to offer you only those services they do best. On the other hand, if a job can be done more efficiently by consolidating several services under a single vendor at a better price, do it.

17. Reduce the number of pages printed.
When presenting something online is acceptable to readers, do so.

18. For journals, experiment with author-pay models,
where authors pay to have their work published. In some circumstances, STM and other publishers have successfully utilized an open-access/author-pay model to save money on product launch and editorial costs.

---Source: The Media Minute Jan. 5, 2009 newsletter ( This article was originally titled 34 Tips for Cutting Costs Without Laying Off Staff and was edited for space. James Sturdivant is a contributing editor of Publishing Executive and his full article can be retrieved from this Web site (










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